Articles Tagged with trust

underwood-trust-asset-distributions-300x300A trust is a legal device often used in estate planning. A trust may be established in the trustor’s lifetime, or it may be established in the trustor’s will where it takes effect once the trustor dies and the will is admitted in probate. Generally, assets in a trust are distributed according to the trustor’s intent, which can be specified in the trust instrument or document. 

If a trust instrument is not specific, the Probate Code gives trustees broad discretion to distribute the trust’s assets by: (1) liquidating them and distributing the proceeds between the beneficiaries (in cash distribution); (2) allocating equal shares in interest in the trust’s assets between the beneficiaries (pro rata in kind distribution); or (3) allocating whole assets separately to different beneficiaries (non-pro rata in kind distribution).

What is a trust?

5122023-300x300“A trust is any arrangement which exists whereby property is transferred with an intention that it be held and administered by the transferee for the benefit of another.” (Higgins v. Higgins (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 648, 662.) Essentially, a trust is a legal relationship that allows a person to hold property for the benefit of another person. 

In a trust relationship, there are typically three main people involved: (1) the settlor; (2) the trustee; and (3) the beneficiary. The settlor is the person that creates the trust and transfers the property he/she owns in the trust to be held by the trustee. The trustee is the person that administers the trust. The trustee holds legal title to the property transferred into the trust by the settlor and acts as a fiduciary to the beneficiary to protect the assets in the trust. The beneficiary holds equitable title to the trust property and is the person that benefits from the property in the trust. In some cases, the settlor and the trustee are the same person. 

In sum, a trust is a fiduciary relationship where property is transferred by one person to another on behalf of a third party. At the Underwood Law Firm, our attorneys are more than familiar with trusts and the requirements that follow. 

4282023-300x300Partitions are lawsuits that split up the property between multiple co-owners so that each can take their equity out of the home. The prototypical partition is that between unmarried partners or business partners. Both own equal shares, but only one wants to end the relationship and take their money out. Partitions enable this to happen, usually ending with a court-ordered sale of the subject property.  

The presence of a trust changes this calculus. This is because a trustee typically holds the property for the benefit of another. (Estate of Yool (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 867, 874.) As such, pursuing a partition becomes much more difficult to do, especially because partitions cannot be used to disrupt the purpose and provisions of an express irrevocable trust.

At the Underwood Law Firm, our attorneys are well-versed in these matters and familiar with the intricacies of the interactions between property law and probate procedures. The following are steps that every litigant should keep in mind before pursuing the partition of a property subject to a trust. 

4212023-300x300Anytime a litigant wants to file a lawsuit, a threshold question is where the lawsuit should be filed. Specifically, the question is what county should get to hear the action. This process is called determining “venue,” and it can become quite a complicated endeavor. This is because the “correct” county for action will depend on a number of factors. 

One such factor is the “nature” of the action. If it concerns the “internal affairs” of a trust, then specific venue rules come into play. But making this determination isn’t easy. And filing suit in the wrong county could result in both a transfer and sanctions for the plaintiff who didn’t do their homework. 

What is Venue?

3152023-300x300When a loved one passes away, probate proceedings are hopefully not the first thing on their relatives’ minds. Probate is, however, an inevitability, even when a trust is present and effective. But inheritance is not always the blessing that the public conscious imagines it to be. The simple truth is that owning property in California is an expensive endeavor that carries with it tons of monetary responsibility. Faced with the possibility of inheriting something an individual simply cannot afford, there is an option: a disclaimer of interest. 

A disclaimer of interest is, essentially, a written statement to the probate court where someone who stands to inherit property or assets states that they do not wish to exercise that inheritance. They “disclaim” any right to receive the interest that they otherwise would. 

Specifically, Probate Code section 275 provides: “A beneficiary may disclaim any interest, in whole or in part, by filing a disclaimer of as provided in this part.” 

2242023-300x300A Heggstad petition is a unique legal maneuver in probate court that a party can use to establish the existence of a trust. Normally, if a party wants to show that the property at issue is in a family trust, they have to produce evidence of a transfer of the property into the trust. (Prob. Code § 15200 (b).) This is usually accomplished with a deed, which conveys the property from the owners (the “settlors”) to the trustees of the trust. 

But what happens when the settlor and trustee are the same person? That’s where Heggstad comes in. Under Heggstad, no formal transfer of the property by deed is needed. Instead, a written declaration of trust by the owner of the property is enough, provided the owner names themself as the sole trustee. (Carne v. Worthington (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 548, 559.) 

Nonetheless, a successful Heggstad petition still requires proper planning and execution. A faulty property description, for instance, can doom the action from the outset. At Underwood Law firm, our attorneys know how tough a situation like this can be. Thankfully, our attorneys are well-versed in estate planning, and we know the best ways to tackle the disputes that accompany property in probate. Our team has the legal acumen and skills necessary to help you achieve your litigation goals. 

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